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Small-town Students. Big Dreams. Real Opportunities.

Students in McCall, Mountain Home and Payette reap the benefits of the Boise State University resources through the Community Impact Program (CIP). The program offers a combination of off-campus experiences and accessible online education that allows students in rural Idaho communities to complete their education in their hometowns.

The first class in the CIP curriculum was Entrepreneurial Skills (Entrep 320) taught by Simon Mahler. Eight startups were founded by students in the fall course. We talked with three of the entrepreneurs who are still working closely with instructor Mahler on their start-ups.

Charlie Brizzee – Payette River Distillery

Charlie Brizzee

Charlie Brizzee grew up in southeast Idaho and moved to the Payette area four years ago where he is in the process of opening Payette River Distillery.

“I’ve always dreamed of opening my own brewery but that area has exploded – the market is saturated with microbrewers,” said Charlie. “An exercise we did in my Entrep 320 class helped me think beyond a brewery.”

Charlie hasn’t always seen himself as an entrepreneur but having grown up on his family’s dairy farm, he’s no stranger to the hard work it takes to start a business. “I’ve always had the mentality that you have to work a million hours to make a million dollars,” he said. He was inspired to combine his work ethic with his ambition of starting his own business after Boise State President Marlene Tromp delivered an inspiring talk to his Entrep 320 class, and soon after the Payette River Distillery was born.

Charlie is in the permit and licensing phase of his business, which he described as a pretty complex process. Mahler is currently helping him find legal counsel to assist in the licensing process. His vision is to have a project to work on in retirement, and create a successful, thriving business with employees and the ability to contribute to the Payette community.

“My intent is not only to provide myself with a livelihood, but to provide that opportunity for small-town people in Payette and neighboring counties and to bring some uplift to the community.”

Charlie has advice for future entrepreneurs at Boise State. “Reach out to your instructors and the valuable resources within Boise State that you may not even realize are there,” Charlie said. “It’s all about education.”

Mandy Fulbright – Employment App for Single Parents

Mandy Fulbrigh

Mandy Fulbright lives in Mountain Home where she is a single mom of three boys. She’s working on a tech platform that helps single parents find jobs. She was prompted to think about an entrepreneur’s “why” behind their business during Entrep 320, and that got her wheels turning.

“It started as a joke, honestly,” said Mandy. “I was like ‘why don’t I just start a business for single parents?’ Now I’m running with it! My “why” is because I work hard to support my kids, and I want to be able to give opportunities to other single parents out there to find that avenue to support their kids.”

Mandy hasn’t always seen herself as an entrepreneur, but CIP has helped her entrepreneurial spirit shine. She said, “taking that entrepreneurship class was inspiring.”

Mandy is still in the beginning stages of starting her business and with the help of CIP she’s been able to explore partnerships with WorkSource and the State of Idaho on her venture.

For other entrepreneurs Mandy says, “Find support with like-minded people, because if you’re stuck in an area where mindset is not in a growing position, I think that can hinder progress.”

Sandra Meza – Alpaca and Llama Expeditions

Sandra Meza

Sandra Meza lives in Council, Idaho. She decided to go back to school last fall and a friend recommended the Community Impact Program. She has always loved the outdoors, and a few years ago she got into hiking and backpacking. While on a retreat, Sandra came across a book called “The Secret of the Andes” about an Incan boy living with a llama herder in the mountains of Peru, which inspired her startup Alpaca and Llama Expeditions.

Sandra is aiming to partner with various llama and alpaca farms in the region to provide excursions and animal rentals for explorers in remote parts of Idaho.

“So far I’ve had a lot of support from the Community Impact Program,” Sandra said. “I wasn’t actually planning on doing any entrepreneurial-type business, it just came to be that way. The CIP has been really helpful with networking and they offer classes on leadership and creative collaboration. It has been helpful to get an idea of what’s behind the scenes of running a business.”

Sandra wants to go into architecture, but the Alpaca and Llama Expeditions would be a fulfilling side business.

“I like the silence and beauty of nature and being in remote areas so much – it really fuels my desire to help people get out there!

Learn more about the Community Impact Program.

Story by Sam Pence, MBA candidate.